Posted on April 15, 2011

For attracting Qatari women to universities in the USA, Qatar’s first EducationUSA, a network of educational advising centres, has showcased a new initiative of the US State Department and US Women’s Colleges. The initiative aims to increase the number of women from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region obtaining Bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) disciplines.

EducationUSA is a network of educational advising centers that help students and their families take the right decision on applying to US universities. EducationUSA advisers were in Doha to attend the EducationUSA MENA Regional Conference. As part of the event, college fairs were set up to help students and parents know more about education in USA. “The major highlight would be the new project of the US State Department which involves a partnership initiative with Women’s colleges in the US and the private sector to increase the number of women from the Muslim community interested in STEM at US colleges,” said Dr Sandra J Laney, Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Science and Technology Advisor to Secretary of State, USA, on the sidelines of Collage Fair in Aspire Academy, yesterday. “We really need more women from Qatar to study as the country offers many opportunities in the STEM sector.

Data on STEM students who were undergoing the bachelors programme in 2008 in the US show that while 129 males from Qatar were doing their bachelors courses in various STEM disciplines, the number of women was only nine. The figure from the MENA-region during the period shows that there were 8,181 males while only 729 females were undergoing their bachelor’s programme. This would mean only 8.2 percent of the MENA-students were females,” she told The Peninsula.

As part of the women’s college initiative, representatives of five US women’s colleges, called the Sisters is in Doha to promote the project. The five colleges include Wellesley, Barnard, Smith College, Mount Holyoke and Bryn Mawr. The sister colleges are consistently ranked among the top liberal arts schools in the United States. They are renowned for preparing women for careers in science and are prestigious institutions of higher education known for academic excellence and selective admissions. These highly selective institutions keep making history – and headlines – by preparing women for leadership in a globalised world.

“We are not segregating women, but rather we offer them an opportunity to empower themselves through education and leadership. Everything about the institutions from student government to activities and decision making are run by women. These are natural leadership incubators and hence help women find their voices. Indeed, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is herself a graduate of Wellesley, one of the sister colleges,” she said.

“These colleges offer incredibly strong science and engineering programmes and it is this environment that many families here might be interested to send their daughters to study in the US. We are hoping to reach out to the families to make them understand that this is an environment that can be supportive of their cultural needs and still allow women to get high quality us education.”

There are some 52 women’s colleges in the US and the sisters are the top five institutes which started in the 1800s to allow women have equal opportunities for quality education as in Ivy League School for males. “We do have a cohort of Muslim women in these colleges. All of them are offered halal food, we respect Ramada and offer late food apart from places to pray. It is a welcoming and supportive environment, a place they can find home which is testified by a number of Muslim women already there,” Laney said.

The fair at Aspire Academy, yesterday drew an overwhelming response with number of students and parents turning up to enquire about education possibilities in the US.

Participating universities and programmes included over 50 US education institutes as American University Washington College of Law, Educational Testing Service/TOEFL and GRE, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florida Institute of Technology, Georgetown University (Communication, Culture and Technology Graduate Programme), Indiana University School of Law, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, Michigan State University, Murray State University, Portland State University, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Baltimore School of Law, University of California - Merced, University of Central Missouri, University of Cincinnati, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Flint, University of Minnesota, University of New Haven, University of San Diego School of Law, Winthrop University - South Carolina, Drexel University, University of California Berkeley Extension.